year, george won over the critics, played sell-out dates across the country
and conquered the airwaves, with no less than four hugely successful singles.
And all this before they’d even released their first long-player.
POLYSERENA is the long-awaited first album from Brisbane five-piece, george, a debut that’s as assured as it is complex. Indeed, it’s hard to believe POLYSERENA is a debut album at all: it’s a record steeped in originality, mature beyond its years. And with it, george bring the boundaries between rock, pop and electronica crashing down about their finely tuned ears, to create a sound that is unmistakably their own.
The george story starts with siblings. Katie and Tyrone Noonan are the shared vocal force behind the band. Music runs in the Noonan blood. “Our mother Maggie is a professional dramatic soprano and she taught us to sing from when we were babies,” says Katie.
“Growing up with classical music definitely influenced my early forays into rock,” says Ty, who admits to a flirtation with ELO and Queen before later romances with bands as diverse as The Church, The Happy Mondays and Radiohead. Katie supplemented her jazz fixation with U2, Jeff Buckley, Tori Amos and Ani di Franco, and it’s this breadth of influence that marks george out from their more mainstream contemporaries.
Katie went on to study jazz at the Queensland Conservatorium while Ty, then a journalist, played in a string of Brisbane outfits before living for two years in Dublin. “My first band was called The Sadistic Teddy Bears. We used to do obscure Models covers,” he says. Both siblings are multi-instrumental; Ty plays guitar, keyboards, the bodhran drum and the blues harp and mixes it up on the turntables; Katie plays piano and percussion, and writes arrangements for classical instruments.
“george was formed in 1996,” says Katie. “It was a complete accident!” That was the year that Nick Stewart - a lead guitarist in the tradition of Hendrix, Page and Kravitz - entered a university band competition…but forgot to mention that he didn’t have a band. “My twin brother, Jim and I started jamming and we asked friends, including Katie and Ty, to join us. There were about 12 of us in the original line up,” recalls Nick.
“We jammed on my back porch, overlooking Mount Coot-tha,” says Katie, “then we ended up winning the band comp state finals.” It took a few years for george to emerge as the five-piece it is today. Jim Stewart left to pursue his acting career and, in 1998, Geoff Green joined on drums.
studying classical percussion at QUT at the time, and had an extensive
musical background. “All through high school I played in orchestras
and percussion ensembles as well as rock bands,” says Geoff, who
is a longstanding fan of Midnight Oil drummer, Rob Hirst.
The george sound refuses to be boxed in. It draws on guitar-driven rock, ambient electronica and jazz grooves. Classical arrangements of strings and horns rub shoulders with bent sax solos and tripped out dub beats. And it’s all held together by some of the most powerful vocals in the business.
“We have two lead singers because that’s the way we like it,” says Katie. “We didn’t make a conscious decision to split the vocals 50/50. It’s just how the songs turned out.” Katie and Ty each sing the songs they write and share principal song writing credits with Nick.
“We’re basically all like brothers and sisters,” says Nick. “george has come down to a really tight knit family.” And Ty would have to agree.” There are moments when I’m playing keys and Katie’s singing when I look over and nothing can beat that closeness,” he says. “A lot of our crowd sees that, it’s like a family atmosphere.”
george is essentially a live band, and it’s this on-stage magic that producer David Nicholas (Ash, Pulp, Elton John, INXS) sought to capture in the studio. The 13 tracks on POLYSERENA span the six years of the band’s history - ranging from the thunderous guitar-driven Release to the gorgeous, most recent single Breathe In Now - and they are, for the most part, recorded as they would be played live. “That’s why we chose Mangrove Studios in Gosford, because we could record live,” says Nick. After an intense two weeks of live tracking, the band then relocated to a mobile studio in an idyllic house near Byron Bay. The result: a creative triumph.
“We produced the record with David,” says Katie, “and it was good to work with someone who had such a strong understanding of music but who had no personal attachment to the songs - but in the end we made the final decisions. We’re all such sensitive bloody artists, we need that!”
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